Saturday, 17 June 2017 20:00



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Since Father’s Day is June 18, let’s celebrate two TV fathers whose concern and love for their children bring a deeper understanding of their characters to the plots.

Those fathers are Harry Bosch in Bosch, available on Amazon Prime and based on the novels by Michael Connelly, and Mike Ehrmantraut on Better Call Saul, wrapping up its third season on the AMC channel.

Bosch

In Connelly’s novels, Bosch’s daughter Maddie didn’t show up until his ninth novel, Lost Light, published in 2003. But each season of Bosch on Amazon Prime is a combination of several novels. It makes sense to have Maddie appear as a teenager, given the age and experience of Harry at this point in time.

Titus Welliver is outstanding as Los Angeles Police Department Detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch, who is a homicide detective in the Hollywood Division (for those few readers who do not know this). Harry’s skills as a detective, and his tendency to be a bit of a lone wolf, are paramount to the series. The TV series keeps the spirit of Connelly’s novels as well as the intense characters that the author has honed throughout his novels.

But Harry’s relationship with his teenage daughter, Maddie, winningly played by Madison Lintz, adds a deeper aspect to Harry. For most of the three seasons of Bosch, Maddie has called her father Harry. It makes sense because for most of her life he has been a bit of a stranger, living in a different city, and sometimes a different country.

Relationships are hard for Harry, but Maddie is the one person for whom he has unconditional love.

The moment when Maddie finally calls him “Dad” is a turning point for both. And the look of extreme love and pride and even thankfulness that flitters across Welliver’s face is naked emotion, something Harry usually doesn’t show.

We see his hurt when Maddie tells Harry that he is like a turtle who does not let anyone else under his shell, even her at times. Deep in Season Three, Harry sits on the edge of Maddie’s bed while she is asleep, worried that something he has done could bring harm to his child. Again, Welliver shows the unconditional love that Harry has for his child and how he would do anything to protect her.

The chemistry between father and daughter is perfect. Lintz is a poised young actress who also appeared during the first two seasons of AMC's postapocalyptic series The Walking Dead.

The third season of Bosch is now on Amazon Prime, and it’s been renewed for a fourth season.

Better Call Saul

banksjonathan bettercallsaulFor Better Call Saul’s Mike Ehrmantraut, his granddaughter Kaylee is the only person he cares about.

Mike’s love for Kaylee is the sole pure thing in his life, and also his only connection to humanity. She is the reason why he pushes himself into doing things not quite legal, as he wants to be able to leave her as much money as he can. There is nothing he would not do to make life better for Kaylee and his daughter-in-law.

Jonathan Banks never falters in his portrayal of Mike Ehrmantraut, showing his compassion and love for Kaylee as well as his hardened soul when dealing with others. Banks has long been a go-to character actor but now that he is older he is even better. His hangdog look shows a complex character beneath.

Part of his love for his granddaughter stems from the guilt he carries about his deceased son. As a cop in Philadelphia, Mike was involved in corruption. He knows his son was murdered because of the sins he committed.

Mike also knows that his actions could bring harm to his remaining family, even as he tries to shield them. The scene in which he notices the twin assassins watching his granddaughter, and he literally tries to shield her with his body, tells us everything we need to know about Mike.

Top: Titus Welliver and Madison Lintz on the set of Bosch; photo courtesy Amazon Prime

Bottom: Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) with his granddaughter Kaylee in Better Call Saul; photo courtesy AMC

Father's Day With “Better Call Saul,” “Bosch”
Oline H. Cogdill
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Wednesday, 14 June 2017 21:30

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When she passed away in 2013, Barbara Mertz—the real name of Elizabeth Peters—was working on an Amelia Peabody novel.

It’s been a long seven years since readers had a new story about Amelia, the daring, witty, parasol-toting Englishwoman whose adventures have taken her across Egypt through 19 novels and one nonfiction companion volume, Amelia Peabody's Egypt: A Compendium.

Amelia Peabody novels were launched in 1975 and featured a large array of family, friends, allies, and characters both fictional and based on historical figures.

Egyptologist Barbara Mertz knew her history and lore and included much about Egypt in her novels. The series started in 1884 and moved up through 1923. In addition to solid mystery plots, her novels also featured a good share of humor, romance and even a parody of Victorian-era adventure novels.

At the time of Mertz’s death, the 20th installment, The Painted Queen, was in the editing stages.

Now, The Painted Queen is set to be published on July 25. Mertz’s longtime friend and award-winning mystery writer, Joan Hess, finished the manuscript.

Hess used extensive notes and conversations with Mertz to complete The Painted Queen in Mertz’s style.

The Painted Queen will be the last novel in the Amelia series.

Although The Painted Queen is the 20th entry in the series, it actually was supposed to be the 14th, chronologically, as it takes place in 1912.

In The Painted Queen, Amelia and her archeologist husband Radcliffe Emerson are back in Egypt for another excavation season. Before they head to the field, they want one more night of comfort, so the couple retires to their favorite hotel for an elegant dinner and crisp sheets. The next morning, Emerson is at the Service des Antiquities to sort out their plan, while Amelia is taking a bubble bath. But just as she has eased into the tub, a man staggers into the bath chamber clutching his throat, gasping, “Murder” before collapsing to the floor.

The Painted Queen of the title refers to the iconic bust of Queen Nefertiti, chief consort of Pharaoh Akhenaten and stepmother to King Tutankhamun.

During her 50-year career, Mertz received numerous writing awards, starting with her first Anthony Award for Best Novel in 1989. Other honors include grandmaster and lifetime achievement awards from the Mystery Writers of America, Malice Domestic, and Bouchercon. In 2012, she was given the first Amelia Peabody Award, created in her honor, at the Malice Domestic convention.

Joan Hess is the author of the Claire Malloy Mysteries and the Arly Hanks Mysteries. She is a winner of the American Mystery Award, the Agatha Award, for which she has been nominated five times.

Finishing another’s manuscript or continuing a series after an author’s death has become an industry standard. Ace Atkins does a terrific job carrying on Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series. Also, Reed Coleman has picked up the mantle for Parker’s Jesse Stone novels.

Robert Ludlum novels have been continued by Gayle Lynds, Philip Shelby, Patrick Larkin, Eric Van Lustbader, James H. Cobb, Kyle Mills, Jamie Freveletti, Douglas Corleone, and excuse me if I have overlooked a couple.


Back to Egypt With Elizabeth Peters
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Saturday, 10 June 2017 21:25

daviskevin braindefense
Normally, I don’t read true crime books, but recently two crossed my desk that I could not pass up. Both books pulled me in with their strong narrative and meticulous research.

Today, I am focusing on one of those books.

Chicago journalist Kevin DavisThe Brain Defense: Murder in Manhattan and the Dawn of Neuroscience in America's Courtrooms (Penguin Press) combines true crime, brain science, and courtroom drama in a well-researched book.

What makes Davis’ book so absorbing is it takes the reader on journey that shows us how neuroscience intersected with criminal justice, setting a new standard in courtrooms and the law.

Davis’ story starts with the 1991 death of Barbara Weinstein, whose body fell from a 12th-story apartment on Manhattan’s East 72nd Street. The 56-year-old woman’s husband, Herbert, soon confessed to the police that he had hit his wife and then strangled her after an argument. He threw her body out of the apartment window to make her death appear to be a suicide.

Nothing in the case added up. The 65-year-old Herbert Weinstein was a quiet retired advertising executive. He didn’t have a criminal record, no history of violent behavior. He apparently didn’t even have a temper.

What made him snap?

After he was arrested, an MRI revealed a cyst the size of an orange on his brain’s frontal lobe. That’s the part of the brain that governs judgment and impulse control.

daviskevin photo by Anne Ryan
Could Weinstein’s brain have been broken, causing him to do something totally out of character?

Weinstein’s lawyer argued that the cyst had impaired Weinstein’s judgment and that he should not be held criminally responsible for the murder.

This became the first case in the United States in which a judge allowed a scan showing a defendant’s brain activity to be admitted as evidence to support a claim of innocence.

The Weinstein case ushered in a sea change in American courtrooms, as Davis shows. It wasn’t just a matter of one man’s medical issues. The ruling raised complicated questions about responsibility, free will, and how science affects moral questions.

Full disclosure—I worked with Kevin Davis, right, years ago at the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. He quickly became known as one of the best reporters the newspaper had. Since he left the Sun Sentinel, his reporting has appeared in a number of high-profile newspapers and magazines. He also is the author of Defending the Damned and The Wrong Man.

Davis meets the high standards I expect from him in The Brain Defense.

He doesn’t focus on the lurid details of Weinstein’s case but puts this crime and its ruling in context. Davis looks at a broader history of brain problems, from the bizarre stories of Phineas Gage, history’s most famous brain-injury survivor, and Charles Whitman, perpetrator of the 1966 Texas Tower massacre, to the role that brain damage may play in violent actions by football players and war veterans.

Davis also looks at how criminal lawyers continue to turn to neuroscience and the effects of brain injuries in determining guilt or innocence.

The Brain Defense: Murder in Manhattan and the Dawn of Neuroscience in America's Courtrooms is a fascinating read. Like any good book, the characters—who happen to be real people—are well explored. And the plot—which is all reality—is the stuff of an absorbing legal thriller.

Photo: Kevin Davis photo by Anne Ryan

Nonfiction: “The Brain Defense”
Oline H. Cogdill
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